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15. MCU

 

Talk about food is a very complicated topic. Once I heard this: “Talk about food is like talking about religion”. And is true, all what you eat is what your flesh is made of. Like your soul is feed with religion.
Taiwanese food has an epicurean taste. I thought I have tried Chinese food before and I was so use to it that it was not going to be complicated to get used to the food in Taiwan too. I was completely wrong!  
 

 

 

Taiwan is known around the world for high technology and stunning national parks. However, this country is also known for its night markets and the variety of its cuisine. You can’t go anywhere without seeing something to eat just around the corner. Since I came to Taiwan last September, I have eaten different types of Taiwanese food to experience the culture. After trying different dishes, I can make a comparison between the delicious and pleasing food and the unhealthy and bad tasting one.
  

Mid – Autumn Festival also known as Moon Festival is one of the many festive traditions on the Chinese Calender. It is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month in observance of the bountiful Autumn harvest. Even though official celebrations began on the 15th of September, 2010. My celebrations began on the 14th of September.

The day started out like any other. I arrived to class with my usual sleepy attitude. The day progressed with many people talking about their moon festival plans. Many of my friend were getting together to do a Barbeque at Jihe Campus. In the midst of considering my attendance to the Barbeque I saw many foreigners surrounding the International Affairs office. There a big sign with the words “ MOON FESTIVAL: come and get your free mooncakes.” This brought back my attention to the annual tradition. I soon found myself gathered in a group of familiar faces and together we began sharing many traditional stories about the Moon Festival. 

 I I can say that my experience during the 2010 Moon Festival has no comparison. September 22nd was just another regular day for me, until I listened to some of my friends talking about sharing some “moon cakes”. I didn’t have the slightest idea of what a moon cake was. I thought they were referring to some kind of circular iced cake with a white topping, resembling the moon. When I told this to my Taiwanese roommates, they could not stop laughing.

 
However, my ignorance turned out to be a good thing. Later on the same day, my roommates gave me a big box of moon cakes as a present. As soon as I opened it –and to my surprise- they were not similar to the moon at all. I discovered that a moon cake is a round pastry that measures about 10 cm in diameter and has some Chinese characters on the top. I was so excited about trying them for the first time but, I was also worried because of all the weight I was going to gain by eating all 20 of them.

 My name is Mariana and my native language is Spanish. Studying English for me was not as hard as starting to know and learn the basic words in Mandarin, since I started school at 2 years old, I got used to listening words in English, and having a daily interaction with native English speakers helped me to improve my comprehension, accent, and vocabulary. Now studying Mandarin as my third language helped me realize the many other languages out there that most people have no idea how wonderful they are. Mandarin is a language full of meaning ,history and art.

I’m sure the first impressions are not always the most important, but they certainly count. Taiwan causes a big impression on me, the language itself is widely known by people as one of the hardest languages. Now coming to Taiwan meant three things for me, hard work, tolerance, and lots of adventures. My hard work had to start with my studies, and that meant my career and getting to know, and speak fluent Mandarin, that is the hardest part of all. I remember myself trying to pronounce the words correctly, and my teacher to whom I learned to call lao shi, -If you know Mandarin, you know that in English it means teacher-, well he had a hard task, and his work consisted of teaching newcomers basic words that could help us to have a brief but polite conversation with any person around us. When I was tough how to say “hi how are you?” in mandarin, and when they gave me my translated name I simply couldn't stop telling people around my name, and asking around how were they doing. It was so exciting for me to know at least two simple questions that make a big difference from only using signs as a way of communication, and from now at least knowing the name of person you are dealing with, it was simple but for me, it was a big deal. That was just the beginning, when having my first formal class with my new lao shi, I knew lots of hard work, dedication and tolerance had to be applied. As any typical foreigner I had to learn how to say hamburger , and how to find one. So finding food that I liked, and knowing how to ask for it became my personal quest. That's when the adventures started, when living at the university doors you get to have some advantages like having the night market close, the subway and the McDonalds’, finding them was the problem, I was lucky that the taxi driver understood McDonalds’ since it sounds similar with Chinese.

In the 50’s my grandmother and my grandfather decided to immigrate to Panama without anything to start a new life. Immigrants from Canton, China, both started working at the counter of a local convenient store. They worked from Monday to Sunday, taking rest when the other one was working, and saving as much as they could. With the pass of the months and the unstoppable working routing, my grandparents managed to adapt to their new environment, to save money, and to undertake the difficult task of learning Spanish. These three elements gave them enough support to advance to their second goal, start a family. Here is where my mother came from. She has four sisters and one brother. And as you can conclude, my grandparents are really traditional because they tried several times to have their male offspring before stop procreating. Being an Asian immigrant back in the 50’s was really difficult. There were a lot of prejudges, stereotypes, and discrimination toward foreigners. This was the main reason and the biggest mistake of why my mother, aunties, and uncle cannot speak Chinese. My grandparents were afraid to teach them Chinese as it later might give them a hard time to adapt to the society because of the language barrier. Although I consider this as a mistake, I can tell from what they did, how big their concern was and good care was for their children.

Before I got on the plane to get here to Taiwan, I made myself a personal promise not to have any expectations about Taiwan as a country, the university, the people and the culture. I did this so that I wouldn’t get disappointed about anything, in what would soon become my new home.

Therefore for me everything about Taiwan was an absolute surprise. The city is beautiful specially the Taipei 101 area, the night markets are great, convenient for when I am hungry at midnight and the best thing is that they sell very tasty food for a very cheap price.

Part of my surprise of life in Taiwan was the university. Ming Chuan is a great university, the students are really nice and so is the staff, but to my greatest surprise I haven’t become as physically fit as I should be by now, as climbing up the 367 steps of Ming Chuan everyday hasn’t really changed my physical appearance, but I still have 3 years to go, so jia you for me!

The culture is definitely interesting; I love the fact that there are so many differences between my culture and the Taiwanese.  I never thought I would feel as inversed into the Taiwanese culture as I feel now.

Have you ever heard of a place where time goes faster than any other place in the world? If you have not, then get ready for my story about my time in Taiwan.

Wednesday 3:05 a.m. I am inside my room at my house, and I am lying on my bed; I am trying to sleep. I move around, back and forth, but I cannot fall asleep yet. The lights are off, but I feel frustrated to know that I cannot sleep. I force myself to sleep.

It is still dark at 6:36 a.m. inside my room, but I wake up again. I feel really cold; my blanket is gone to the edge of my bed. I pull it well over me, but I am mad; I know my alarm clock is going to be ringing in an hour. I know that I have to go to class, but I still need to fall asleep right away. I want to get a good sleep as much as I can.

At 7:24 a.m. I hear a familiar sound far in my room, but I do not want to open my eyes. I feel extremely tired. I have not slept enough these days.

It was extremely hot that day; I was walking in the street without knowing where to go. It was my first week here in Taiwan and I was lost. Many questions were bombarding my head, how can I do? Nobody knows me here? Will I find my way out? Should I start praying? I was wondering what to do; I had no cell phone and no Chinese abilities to ask for help. Finally I decided to ask an old lady that was sitting outside of her house. I walked to her and told her “hello, could you please tell me how to get to Shida University?” She just looked at me and told me to come in. At the beginning I hesitated because that is not a common thing in my country to be invited in if they don’t even know you. So I wondered for a few seconds and decided to take the risk. I was there sitting with the old lady in the living room; we were just staring at each other.

She got her phone and called someone and later went into the kitchen and brought for me some tea and cookies.  For a moment I thought I was in a coffee shop because the lady was too nice. Suddenly a young lady entered the house and she could speak fluent English.  She asked me where I wanted to go. I briefly explained my situation and she drove me to the university. On our way there she explained to me that the old lady was her grandmother who called her and explained that a “foreigner” was lost.

Last year 2009, was of great achievements for my person. I accomplished to successfully graduate from the high school I had wanted to attend, since primary school days. I expected great changes, and harder challenges to come ahead of me since that day.

 
To my surprise, I was chosen as an ICDF scholarship recipient, which has somehow began what I mentioned earlier. My first few months in Taiwan have been awesome. I never expected to experience New Year in Taiwan away from home.
 
Firstly, I went for dinner with some friends, and former schoolmates from Ming Chuan University. The dinner was great, because we spent the time like a small family that night. Even though, I did not had Turkey and Ham, the usual food back at home for this occasion, my belly was well satisfied with the “enchiladas.” We had Mexican dishes all around us, which I greatly enjoyed.